Photo: Claremont Colleges Memorial Infirmary (c. 1931)

Photo: Claremont Colleges Memorial Infirmary (c. 1931), Black and white photograph, 9.41 x 4.50 inches.
Credit: Claremont Colleges Photo Archive, Special Collections, The Claremont Colleges Library, Claremont, California

The Ocelots of Foothill Boulevard: Mark Dion, Jessica Rath, Dana Sherwood

Curated by Bill Anthes and Ciara Ennis
Pitzer College Art Galleries
January 23 – March 31, 2016

Opening Reception: Saturday, January 23, 3-5 p.m.

Photo Gallery of the Opening Reception

Environmental scientists have begun to refer to our current era as the anthropocene, a new geological epoch in which human activities have become the primary shapers of the earth’s environment and ecological systems, producing climate change, mass extinctions of non-human species and other significant transformations on a global scale. Whether these changes are reversible is uncertain.

On a smaller scale—such as we can observe in our neighborhoods, cities and local landscapes—anthropogenic change gives rise to surprising and unanticipated interactions among species. Mark Dion, Jessica Rath and Dana Sherwood explore these transformations and transactions in the shifting ecotomes—or contact zones between human and non-human worlds—in the multifaceted works included in The Ocelots of Foothill Boulevard.

Brownfield sites and other highly polluted zones, thought incapable of yielding anything at all, have become flourishing habitats for exotic or so-called “invasive” species. Vacant office building, dead shopping malls and decommissioned military installations have become host to new flora and fauna—they are emergent “second nature” habitats in which productive interconnected multi-species communities flourish. One such site exhibiting these unforeseen interactions is the ruin of a historic infirmary, located at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains in northeastern Los Angeles County. Built in the 1930s, it functioned for many years as a health facility for students of The Claremont Colleges. Ravaged by fires, earthquakes and other natural disasters, the infirmary was condemned and abandoned by the early 1970s. A recovering landscape, the building and the parcel of land in which it sits is today host to non-native grasses, Coast Live Oaks and a diverse community of biota—mammalian, avian, insect and amphibian—as well as researchers and students who have made their homes and laboratories in and around the shuttered building.

Taking the multi-species habitat of the infirmary as a reference point, Dion, Rath and Sherwood have excavated the shared non-human and human histories that have populated the area during the past 80 years. In addition to this local site, the artists have extended their forensic gaze to other “second nature” habitats of a terrestrial as well as an aquatic nature. Traversing time and temperate zones, these explorations, while acknowledging the deleterious effects of humans on earth, also signal the unintended value that habitat conversions and co-species habitations can have in the anthropocene.

The Ocelots of Foothill Boulevard is generously supported by art+environment, a four-year project at Pitzer College funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability at Pitzer College.

Related Events

Artist Lecture
Mark Dion: The Wonder Workshop, Jellyfish and Sleeping Bears

Saturday, January 23 at 2 p.m., prior to exhibition reception
Broad Performance Space, Broad Center, Pitzer College

Vocal Performance by Cris Law
Saturday, January 23 at 4 p.m.
Nichols Gallery, Broad Center, Pitzer College

Panel Discussion
Thursday, March 3 at 2 p.m.
Broad Performance Space, Broad Center, Pitzer College

Last modified by laurieb, on November 10, 2016.